Saturday, October 21, 2006

as far as I have gone

form follows function

You either see nothing
In which case you are satisfied


Once you go beneath the mere surface
You see so much that you are astonished
And then you see a little further and you become depressed
A little further and you are bewildered
A little further and you are frightened
A little further and you become passionately enamoured
A little further and you become morbid
After that I don’t know what happens – it’s as far as I have gone.

From «Chapter XXVI: The Awakening» of Louis Sullivan's Kindergarten Chats, written in 1918.

The copy I’m reading is from 1947 – published as part of Documents of Modern Art series that was designed by [insert weak knees here] Paul Rand. (Photos coming soon. You’ve gotta see these spreads.) Found it online at Abe Books after every single presenter mentioned the title at the Louis Sullivan Symposium last weekend. First I’d heard of it.

Sullivan put together the Kindergarten Chats when he was on the steady downward alcohol soaked slide that would eventually end his days (in 1924), and some of that comes through in these writings.

There’s a strangeness, a sadness, a bit of that wise old man afraid no one is listening sensibility (read: just a teeny bit doddering).

I’ve only just started to dip in – some passages are absolutely bizarre, others brilliant – this one above seemed so plaintive and strange – all the more so because I know exactly how he feels.

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